NORTON, MASS. -- The key elements of the nine-year contract extension between the PGA Tour and CBS and NBC for network TV rights were the length of the deal and the flexibility to expand digital products. And the crucial component the tour brought to the bargaining table was the stability of its sponsorship base through the depths of the recession. The innovative nature of the deal gives the tour and all its TV partners the opportunity to explore new forms of media together.
The deal, announced Thursday at the Deutsche Bank Championship by commissioner Tim Finchem and via conference call with CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus and NBC Sports Group Chairman Mark Lazarus, runs through the 2021 season. The tour's 15-year deal with Golf Channel also expires after the 2021 season. Now that NBC and Golf Channel are both owned by Comcast, there will be increased cross-programming and simultaneous programming involving those two operations.
"Over the last five years, the quality of our television partners, CBS, NBC and the Golf Channel, and their performance both in the quality of the product and their performance in the marketplace has been a home run for our players, our tournaments, our sponsors and our charities," Finchem said. "So we are absolutely delighted to announce these new long-term agreements with two terrific broadcast partners in CBS and NBC, which secure our television rights for the next decade. Our partnership with all our broadcast partners will provide continuity for our fans throughout the regular season and Playoffs."
Financial terms of the deal were not revealed, but Finchem did say that the yearly revenue the tour receives will increase. CBS and NBC will retain pretty much the same programming schedule they had under the current deal -- about 20 events for CBS and 10 for NBC -- and the deal ensures that the Players, the tour's flagship event, will remain in May at TPC Sawgrass.
"CBS Sports is delighted to continue our long-standing relationship with the PGA Tour," said McManus. "As we have for more than 50 years, we value our partnership with the tour and have tremendous confidence that the TOUR is well-positioned for continued growth and success. This deal continues CBS Sports' goal and strategy to renew our most important marquee properties in a way that is positive for CBS' business interests. The PGA Tour and its sponsors have been great partners, and we look forward to continuing this partnership for many years to come."
Said Lazarus: "We are excited to continue our longstanding partnership with the PGA Tour, as it is an important pillar for NBC Sports and Golf Channel. As we embark on another decade of coverage, we are proud to share an innovative vision with the PGA Tour to utilize our diverse and unique array of assets to engage golf fans and grow the game in new ways."
One of the strengths of the PGA Tour is that title sponsors must purchase not only advertising time in their own tournaments about also a certain amount of time in other events as well. Because of this, the tour sells more than two-thirds of the advertising inventory for the networks. The loyalty of that sponsorship base was noted by both McManus and Lazarus.
The expanded emphasis on digital products will give the tour the opportunity to bring tournament coverage to tablets, mobile devices and other non-traditional broadcast options. The new agreements include a wide range of simulcast coverage of live tournament action on various PGA Tour digital platforms starting with PGATour.com, as well as CBSports.com, NBCSports.com and GolfChannel.com. Some of these innovations will be implemented in 2012 and all will be implemented by 2013.
The bottom line is that the PGA Tour does not have to worry about its television coverage for a decade. And while the days of tour purses doubling during the term of a TV deal are likely gone, the players do have a guarantee that purses will increase at least slightly every year, putting aside recession-fueled fears that prize money might actually go down. All in all, this appears to be a win for everyone involved.
--* Ron Sirak
(Photo: Andy Lyons/Getty Images)